screen grab of home page

Self hosting versus wordpress.com

I’ve mostly been working on self-hosted WordPress sites for the last few years, and have only kept this blog on wordpress.com to have a presence and a blog to understand the restrictions and possibilities with wordpress.com hosting for any clients that have sites there.

I thought it was time to have a new look to have a more mobile responsive blog. The first thing I found straight away is the more limited range of free themes on offer compared to self hosting. And if things are not quite the way you want you can’t add a plugin or tweak the CSS (without paying).

Finding a new theme

Searching for themes is not so easy within the admin dashboard. I found it easier to search first in the themes section https://theme.wordpress.com/. Then go back to the admin dashboard (Appearance > Themes) and search for the named theme I was interested in trying. I opted for previewing to see how the site looked with the content that I already have. This pointed out problems with themes quite quickly, such as feature images not being the right dimensions, and there not being a widget side bar. It is also the time to try out the colour schemes on offer. Often I found they were limited and not to my taste.

Often I find that I preview a theme that I like the look of from their demo, but when it is applied to my content it looks very different and will take a lot of setting up to get something even approaching the demo.

I picked Rowling after a lot more looking than I would have liked.

About the theme Rowling

This is how Rowling is described on the theme information page:

Originally designed by Anders NorénRowling‘s clean look and versatility make it a great fit for a wide variety of sites, from online magazines to personal blogs. Its responsive layout is optimized for all devices and great typography keeps your text legible and stylish. It comes with custom accent colors and logo support, so you can tweak the design to your liking. It also has two header menu locations and a social menu, and supports the Gallery Post Format.

Why did I pick Rowling?

I liked that it had 2 columns for posts in desktop view plus a widget sidebar. The colour scheme options were appealing to me. There are others than the purple and green that you can see I picked. I also liked the format and location of the menus. I also liked the social menu and that the feature images matched the dimensions that I already had (1200 x 630 px, which also is the optimum size for facebook posts).

What did I have to do to set it up?

I thought all of the widgets from my previous theme were going to remain in the side bar, but unfortunately not. They were preserved as unused widgets and to reinstate them I have to drag them individually (a long way) from the bottom into the new sidebar. This has been a bit annoying and at the time of writing I haven’t done all of them. The number of widgets I had in my previous version was too many anyway for a responsive design. It can look OK on desktop, but on a mobile device this menu ends at the bottom so that means a lot of scrolling and most likely they wont be seen.

Lots of my posts don’t have a feature image as that wasn’t used in the previous theme, so I need to go back and add feature images to make the site look right. That aspect is a work in progress.

I checked the site on my 7″ Android tablet and noticed that the social menu is not showing. So I reinstated a widget that I made with social links as well.

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